Hino Motors has pledged to invest substantially in Thailand to reflect that the country is the Japanese truck and bus maker's most important overseas manufacturing base and biggest marketplace.
|Shirai: More resources on way|
"From now on, capital, equipment, technology and human resources will be pouring into Hino's Thai unit in line with its international business expansion plan," said Yoshio Shirai, the new president of Hino Motors Japan.
Speaking in Bangkok during a visit to Hino's Thai operations, he said the company planned to invest up to 200 million baht retooling its production line to make trucks that can run on compressed natural gas (CNG).
As well, Hino Motors Manufacturing (Thailand) Co has been designated as Hino's regional manufacturing base for export. Additional machinery and technology will be available to support the production of medium-sized trucks for exports throughout the region.
Hino currently runs three factories, two at Samrong and Bang Phli in Samut Prakan and one at Bang Pakong in Chon Buri. The facilities are Hino's largest production base outside Japan.
Last year was the first year that Hino's overseas sales of 65,000 trucks and buses exceeded those in the local market, which totalled 50,000. Overseas sales are forecast to exceed local sales again this year and Hino is aiming for total sales worldwide to reach 200,000 units by 2015.
Average sales of Hino trucks and buses in the Thai market alone over the past six years accounted for 19% of its total exports worldwide.
Yoshinori Noguchi, president of Hino Motors Sales (Thailand) Ltd, said Hino aimed to sell 7,500 trucks and buses in the Thai market this year, representing 41% of the total market projected at 18,300 units.
Sales are projected to increase to 8,700 units next year, of which 2,700 units would be CNG trucks to be launched early next year and the remaining 6,700 units diesel trucks and buses.
Total truck and bus demand in 2009 is expected to reach 21,000 units, a 15% increase from this year driven mainly by CNG-powered vehicles, while demand for diesel vehicles would be steady. Of the total, 3,000 units would be CNG trucks made by Hino and other brands, and the remaining 18,000 units would be diesel-powered.
Mr Noguchi admitted that high diesel prices, the uncertain political outlook and higher demand for CNG conversions were negative factors for the truck and bus market through the third quarter.
Sales of trucks and buses from January to September this year dropped 16% year-on-year to 13,436 units. Hino truck sales in the first nine months fell 18% year-on-year to 12,916 units but its market share rose by three percentage points on stronger bus sales of 520 units, up 70% from the year before.
Mr Shirai said the FM and FG models of Hino tractor trucks with 260 horsepower would be the first CNG models made in Thailand starting next April.
Hino also plans to export Thai-made trucks to India.